Logging On and Speaking Out!
Article ID: 2222
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,844
Times Read: 10,418
Posted: October 26th. 1998
Times Viewed: 10,418
I take another sip of coffee as the first messages of the day come in. As the subject titles flicker by, Claris E-Mailer begins to issue a warning that this day is not going to go at all according to plan.
"Trouble in Detroit Lakes, Michigan."
"Need Help With Child Custody Case."
I take another sip from my "work" cup and sigh. (If you are a writer and you drink coffee, you must always have a favorite 'work" cup!) It's shaping up to be one busy day in cyberspace. I thank the Old Ones that not every morning starts out like this. Increasingly, there is a lot of good news in my mailbox. In fact, I have noticed a definite trend toward more positive media pieces about Paganism in the last three years.
When I became involved in Pagan on-line activism more than four years ago, the bulk of my time was spent very much in the same way that it had been before I hit the Net-writing protest letters and forwarding petitions signed by justifiably irate Pagans to newspapers, television stations, movie studios and magazines.
Whether the protest was about the usual "Halloween" ooky-spooky version of Witchcraft or an "occult" connection to some mysterious crime, no matter what we did or said, the reporters and the newscasters just couldn't seem to get it right. From their lack of response to the Pagan community's concerns, it also seemed as if they didn't care very much about getting it right. It was all extremely frustrating.
I don't know the exact day that began to change. But by Samhain '95, a few good documentaries on Witchcraft began to appear. "The Learning Channel" and "Lifetime" both produced and featured accurate and positive pieces showing Witches as practitioners of a real religion- a religion that we obviously took very seriously. We were so thrilled that we even forgave the filmakers the inclusion of that old horror film classic-the fog machine. ("Just to help set the mood, you understand, " they said. Mmm...I think I'd argue a bit more about that today, but we were happy all the same with the programs.)
As the calendar pages turned over into 1996, several computer related publications began to run reviews on Pagan web sites. Of course, they were still being printed in the September/October issues. No big surprise there. The real surprise came as we realized that the tone of these articles was shifting. There was less emphasis on that degrading "Witchy" image and more focus on the actual beliefs and various traditions of Pagan religious practice.
We had begun to move beyond the stereotype into the reality zone. We almost began to panic.
We had finally received the attention of those media people that we had been trying to turn around for years. But what were we actually going to say? All Pagan "old-timers"-and you know who you are-could write a protest letter with one circle casting hand tied behind our backs. Years and years of experiencing discrimination and bad press had taught us that.
But now that the press was getting a pretty good idea about what we were NOT, what were we prepared to say about who we actually WERE? How would we handle the change from a four decade long reactive stance to a more confident and ultimately proactive one?
We had a lot to think about.
By 1997, the Witchcraft/Pagan on-line community had indeed done a LOT of thinking. We had also done a lot of work in preparing educational materials, press kits and media presentations. The Pagan on-line community was rapidly expanding and new sites were going up as fast as some publishing firms were cranking out "those" Pagan books. Many magazine articles, radio programs and newspaper pieces written about Pagan issues that year had references to on-line Witch/Pagan web sites. Pagans were also using the new on-line resources as they prepared for their own media interviews. It was a banner year.
The Witches' Voice received over thirty reports on positive articles that were written about Witches, Wiccans and Pagans. I am sure there were many that we didn't hear about. More documentaries were shown on television and radio stations all over the country were booking Pagans on their talk shows.
Oh sure, we still came across that occasional "letter to the editor" aficionado. You know the one. The Witches are evil. The Witches are evil even though they say that they are not really evil. The Witches are evil even if they don't realize that they are really evil. Evil, evil, evil Witches!
Uh-huh. We'd already been there, buddy. And we'd done that and we had the smudge stick to prove it. Those guys didn't really bother us all that much any more. We now had better things to do.
We had some important things to say and, at long last, we were getting the chance to say it. Uninterrupted.
We were indeed getting the word out. It was suddenly very cool in media circles to know "the truth about Witches today."
Sincere interest in our Ways has continued to grow. In 1998, Beltaine celebrations were covered by newspapers in many areas. The Druids' Mid-Summer return to Stonehenge was carried internationally. An even more exciting phenomenon was the inclusion of Pagan public events in the regular "religion" section of many local Sunday papers-and right next to the Baptist tent revival notice, too! (Oh, I'll bet those papers got some interesting letters.)
As this Samhain season approaches, we are better prepared to deal with the press than we have ever been before. We are more open, more confident and more knowledgeable. We are no longer on the defensive.
It is true that there are still issues to be addressed, stereotypes to be broken and religious bigots to be challenged. It is also true that we are up to the task. We will never again be brushed off as a seasonal "Halloween" selected short subject.
Witches are celebrating the festivals at Beltaine and at Mid-Summer. Pagans are holding public rituals at Lammas and at Yule. Wiccans are worshipping at altars and in the forests every day.
Pagans are also the parents who speak up at school meetings. We are the citizens who are interested in political candidates. We are the teens that look forward to the future. We are the teachers who are trying to reclaim our past.
Pagans are mothers, fathers, children and elders. We are teachers, lawyers, authors, electricians and students. We are straight, gay, bi-sexual or transgendered. We have a lot to say from many angles and on many topics.
And we are saying it in newspapers and in magazines. We are speaking about issues on television and over the radio. We are voicing concerns in the schools and at the polls. We are saying it in chat rooms, message boards, mail lists and web-sites. We have a voice-a strong, confident voice-and we are speaking to the world. And the world is listening...
I lean back in my desk chair and scan through the messages in my mailbox again. Some of the old problems are still out there. Discrimination against Pagans still goes on and ignorance still exists in many places.
But one thing is certainly gone forever: Our silence.
I begin to type.
It has come to the attention of the Pagan community...."
Walk in Light and Love,
October 25th., 1998
The Witches' Voice
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